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That Miliband Moment

Miliband leaves union bureaucracy with no clothes
Many workers have expressed amazement at the speed (a few days) with which the right wing of the British trade union leadership turned the November pensions strike into capitulation. That’s because the workers don’t see the machinations inside the unions.  The majority of union leaders don’t see a big strike turnout as a green light for a systematic fight with the government. They see the strikers as so many counters that they can use to barter with the government.  When the government won’t barter they just give up.

The bureaucracy have  one  simple  strategy to oppose  the  austerity – elect a Labour  government! Never  mind  that  Labour’s  election manifesto was for austerity and that they were imposing it in government, Both they and the union bureaucracy share an imaginary Keynesian plan that would see the government borrow more money to use for economic expansion. 

Labour leader Miliband’s main criticism of the government is that their austerity programme is stripping demand out of the economy and that the Labour approach, in common with the TUC, would be to go “less far, less fast”, opting for growth by making “balanced cuts”. The message to the working class is clear. The Labour Party, if elected, will slow down the administration of pain to a level where working class impoverishment doesn’t impact catastrophically on capitalist growth. This is a straight forward programme for capitalist recovery, not for a defense of working class conditions during a global capitalist collapse. The ruling class want class peace without the real expense of Keynesian class compromise and expect the Labour party to serve them up the trade union movement – the difference between the Labour and Conservative plans was a 1% shift towards investment.

All this changed in Millband’s new year statement on January 10. The 1% was removed – Labour would cut just as deep as the government. The promise now was that they would be fairer. In case anyone missed the point, Ed Balls called for a continuing public sector pay freeze and then called for increased spending – in tax cuts for business! Labour’s attempts to provide evidence of ‘fiscal responsibility’ are an admission that the Keynesian option is truly dead and leaves the union bureaucracy naked, with no alternative policy.  UNITE leader Len McCluskey’s response seeks to pull Labour back from the logic of their defence of capitalism. He declares he is now fighting to prevent Miliband being “dragged back into the swamp of bond market orthodoxy”, A further twist was fire and thunder about the unions striking during the Olympics.

This is sheer bluster. McCluskey fought to get Milliband elected and UNITE pour millions into Labour’s funds.  He is desperately attempting to save his cover as a leftist and to postpone the day when his members realize that all the bluster adds up to acceptance of capitalist austerity.

While Len McCluskey desperately attempts to breathe life into the bourgeois workers’ party and restore the bureaucracy’s fig leaf, what of the revolutionary left?  The problem is that large sections of the left are tied hand and foot to the union bureaucracy and the “too far, too fast” or “better, fairer way” ideology that dominates the labour movement. Decades of relative class peace have taught many on the left to moderate their demands and the result is an ever more degenerate, weak, voiceless, ‘revolutionary’ left that expects the state or the trade  union  bureaucracy to do the right thing. The silence must be ended and the socialist movement’s role as critic of reformism and advocate of a conscious revolutionary vanguard must be re-established. Ed Miliband demands it!


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